Russian warships to carry out live fire exercise off the Irish coast next month

Russian drills are planned for early February 150 miles off the south-west coast of Ireland
Russian drills are planned for early February 150 miles off the south-west coast of Ireland (Picture: Getty)

Ireland has told Russia that naval warships planning live fire military exercises nearby are ‘not welcome’.

Dublin has confirmed it has received notice from Moscow that drills are planned for early February 150 miles off the south-west coast.

The show of strength will take place in international waters but within Irish airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Foreign minister Simon Coveney said Ireland does not have the powers to prevent it from happening but made it clear to the Kremlin it was displeased.

The announcement comes amid fears Russian troops could be on the verge of invading Ukraine.

Eight years after the annexation of Crimea and the start of the ongoing conflict in the east of the country, around 100,000 troops are poised to take the country if president Vladimir Putin gives the order.

Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr Coveney said: ’I have made it clear to the Russian Ambassador in Ireland (Yury Filatov) that it’s not welcome.

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An Ukrainian soldier walks on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, in Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers are preparing to repel any invasion but are likely to be heavily outnumbered by Russia’s firepower (Picture: AP)

‘This is not a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what is happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.

‘It’s important that I brief my colleagues on those intentions.

‘Russia, under international law, can take military exercises in international waters, but the fact they are choosing to do it on the west borders of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that is in our view not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks.’

Airlines operating in Ireland have been notified in line with international laws governing such exercise but the country’s aviation authority insisted there would be no impact to the safety of commercial flights.

The US will this week formally respond to demands set out by Moscow in mid-December on scaling back Nato’s presence in Eastern Europe and guaranteeing Ukraine will never join.

Some of Russia’s proposals are non-starters as far as the West are concerned, raising the prospect talks will collapse this week.

A poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin is used as target practice
Putin – whose image Ukrainian soldiers have used for target practice – is awaiting a formal response on his Nato demands (Picture: AFP)

The Americans have raised the prospect of Joe Biden meeting with his counterpart in Russia to negotiations and keep talks alive.

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace is due to fly to Moscow for the first bilateral talks with his opposite number since 2013 and prime minister Boris Johnson has warned any invasion will be a ‘bloody business’.

On Monday, Nato said that it is beefing up its ‘deterrence’ in the Baltic Sea area, with Denmark, Spain, France and the Netherlands committed to sending troops or resources.

Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will ‘take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies’.

The Ministry of Defence has denied a report that the UK is ready to commit hundreds more troops to Nato missions in the Baltic.

Last week, The Times reported an unnamed source claiming that Nato ‘have asked the question about boosting’ operations in the countries, which are close to Russia’s Western border.

But despite today’s news, the MoD insists there are still no plans to send more UK troops to reinforce Nato missions.

A spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘There are no current plans to increase the number of personnel deployed as part of Nato’s existing enhanced forward presence deployments.

‘Any future decisions would of course be made in concert with our allies. We keep our support under constant review.’

European Commision diplomats and officials are drawing up stringent ‘never-seen-before’ economic sanctions that will be imposed on Russia within days of any invasion.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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